Centre Bans SMS In J&K, Then Backtracks16 April 2010
Times of India
New Delhi: Within hours of banning the SMS service for post-paid subscribers and restricting the facility for pre-paid users in Jammu and Kashmir, the Centre on Friday withdrew its order following a strong protest by the state which charged the telecom and the home ministries with 'goofing-up' on the entire issue due to poor understanding of the matter. Earlier in the day, citing security reasons, the telecom ministry had asked service providers in J&K to ban SMS for post-paid subscribers and restrict the facility to 10 messages per day per pre-paid subscriber with effect from Friday midnight. State chief minister Omar Abdullah, however, immediately lodged a protest with the Union home ministry, which, in turn, asked the telecom ministry to withdraw its order. It is now learnt that the telecom ministry will come out with a fresh directive on the SMS service in due course. This will be done only after a thorough discussion of the issue among officials of the state government and the telecom and home ministries. 'The fresh order may not touch individual subscribers who send 'single' or very limited number of 'bulk' text messages per day,' said a home ministry official. The 'goof-up' during the day was made as the telecom ministry issued the ban order in the case of both 'single' as well as 'bulk' text messages, allegedly ignoring the state's concern which had asked for banning of only 'bulk' SMSes due to security reasons. The state's concern regarding 'bulk' messages was even endorsed by the home ministry, which had found that the service was increasingly being misused by unscrupulous elements to spread rumours and to mobilize a large number of people at short notice. The official said: 'Such elements were also found using templates carrying provocative messages. They used to send such templates to hundreds of people in one go, mobilizing their presence on streets for sloganeering or even stone pelting.' Reacting to the telecom ministry's step, chief minister Omar Abdullah slammed the Centre saying that the state's security concerns were misunderstood. The issue was bulk SMSes and not the SMS facility for individual subscribers. 'We asked for a ban on bulk SMS facility which we believe is being used to spread rumours and gossip in the name of news....This request has not been understood properly (by the Centre),' Omar was quoted as saying by a news agency. He said that while dealing with the state, the Centre should show more seriousness and understanding. 'An officer sitting in the department of telecommunication (DoT) or the home ministry cannot decide what is right or what is wrong for the people of my state,' he was quoted as saying. The DoT in its order, which was subsequently withdrawn, asked the service providers to immediately stop schemes-tariff packages of free SMS service. Besides, it directed that SMSes originating outside the J&K service area in India and from the networks of ILD operators should not be delivered to mobile subscribers in the J&K service area. It even extended the ban in case of bulk SMS connection-facility-SMS interface given to the telemarketers-users in J&K.